Saffron Technology signed up two new partners and a major customer for its “intelligent” data analysis software last week, but there’s a regular stream of such announcements coming, the company says.

Only three years old, the largely private, investor-backed company expects profits this year, says Mike Seebold, director of customer service and product marketing. “Things are going really well for us right now,” Seebold says.

Back in March, the company was one of 12 start-ups selected to present at the first BioITWorld Venture Summit in Boston. The event focused on young companies with products aimed at helping bioscience firms understand their massive, growing databases of complex information.

On April 10, Saffron signed partnership agreements with Annapolis, Md.-based Eastport Analytics Inc. and Atlanta, Ga.-based SoftPro Technologies. Eastport, which has excellent government connections, will help Saffron find new customers, while SoftPro will install Saffron’s products for customers. Both are revenue sharing deals.

Larry Lafferty, chief executive officer of SoftPro Technologies, is a Saffron fan. “We have been using Saffron’s products extensively and are very pleased with their ability to handle complex data,” he says.

“A big win for us”

On April 12, the company said The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) has awarded it a sole source contract to build a customized version of its SaffronNet application for IDA’s government customers.

Seebold explains that IDA is a federally funded research and development company that evaluates technologies to provide unbiased advice to U.S. government agencies. “They looked at 35 companies and not only chose us, but chose us solely. It’s a big win for us,” Seebold says.

Timothy P. Coffin, the technical lead of the IDA selection team, said the company performed a broad review of the Saffron product before choosing it.

SaffronNet is the company’s “knowledge discovery” application, which runs on top of its Saffron One engine. The two are related in the way a computer operating system such as Windows is related to an application such as Word or Excel. Other software developers can develop their own software applications to run on the Saffron One engine.

Not looking for venture cash

Seebold says the Saffron One engine development license sells for $75,000. “That’s higher than other data analysis engines, so some people call us the ‘Ferrari’ of the business,” he says. Final pricing on the application (SaffronNet) is still being determined, Seebold says.

Founded in January 1999 by two former IBM scientists, James S. Fleming, now president, and Manny Aparicio, chairman and chief scientist, Saffron developed its software engine and application based on neurocomputing principles.

Neurocomputing tries to replicate certain processes the human mind uses to form associations, learn, and analyze data.

Aparicio was the first Ph.D hired to research neurocomputing at IBM in 1987, where he co-invented several patented learning algorithms and methods.

Dan Ariely, the M.I.T. expert on e-commerce and Internet strategy is a board member.

Saffron’s Java-based products use what the company calls an “associative database,” that learns from user behavior. “Basically, people use it to analyze reams of complex data looking for patterns and trends or answers to detailed questions,” Seebold says.

Saffron has about 15 customers currently, including a biotech firm that prefers not to be identified, Seebold says. The product is also drawing interest from government and law enforcement agencies as a counter-terrorism tool, he says.

He notes that some other programs would see a link between Turkey and Asia in the same sentence and understand that Turkey meant country in that instance.

He suggests the Saffron software might see links and make associations from masses of complex data to pinpoint Al Queda operatives developing a terrorist weapon in Turkey, say. “You can ask it detailed questions and get intelligent answers,” he says.

One way the 16-employee company remains lean is by seeking partners to do some jobs such as installation and integration of the software, says Seebold.

He says the company, which has 8,000 square feet of space in its Morrisville offices may outgrow the space if business remains as good as it is now, however.

Saffron picked up $190,000 from Durham-based Aurora Funds and private investors early in the fall of 1999, then closed a round of somewhere between $3 million and $5 million from wealthy individual investors in 2000.

But Seebold says Saffron is not currently interested in additional venture money. “We had people throwing money at us and turned it down,” he claims.

“We’re riding on revenue now, and that’s exciting. We’ll have customer and partnership announcements coming out about once a week this year, the way our commercial deals are closing.”

Saffron’s Web site: www.saffrontech.com

IDA Web site: www.ida.com